American Detective Fiction and Film Noir

Detective fiction often features a hard-boiled private eye who enters the seedy underbelly of the crime world to solve mysteries, usually involving a murder. This mystery genre spawned film noir, French for "black film" or "film of the night". Film noir dramas enjoyed great popularity in 1940s and 50s America.

We can't fit every resource about detective fiction and film noir on this list! A topic guide is just the beginning of building your bibliography.

Reference Materials

This is the place to start any research project. Reference books offer short, authoritative information on every topic. These books must be used in the library and can be found on the first floor. Most contain bibliographies of important books on your topic. Some others may have more detailed information on the detective and mystery genre and its authors.

Curley, Dorothy. (1969). A library of literary criticism : modern American literature. 4 Volumes. REF 810.9 C93 A 4-volume collection of criticisms on various authors. Includes bibliographies.
Kunitz, Stanley. (1952). Twentieth century authors : a biographical dictionary of modern literature. 1,577 pages. REF 820.9 K96
Parini, Jay. (1981). American writers : a collection of literary biographies : Supplement II. 2 volumes. REF 810.9 Am3 Contains bibliographic sketches of contemporary mystery writers like Thomas Pynchon.


The library has a number of detective and mystery novels in its collection. Most of them can be found in the FIC section, but some may be found in the 810s. You may also want to examine the collection of books on film, which can be found in the 791s.

Burns, Rex. (1990). Crime classics : the mystery story from Poe to the present. 390 pages. FIC SC-A CRIME 1990
Denby, David. (1997). Awake in the dark : an anthology of American film criticism, 1915 to the present. 391 pages. 791.43 D41
Manchel, Frank. (1977). Women on the Hollywood screen. 122 pages. 791.43 M31
McCullough, David. (1984). Great detectives : a century of the best mysteries from England and America. 728 pages. FIC SC-A GREAT


The library provides you with access to a number of books online and lets you read them when you are not in the library. These books will appear in our catalog accompanied by a computer icon. Instead of having a call number, they contain links that will open the e-book. E-books have a table of contents and chapters, just like a physical book. However, unlike a paper book, e-book text can be searched using keywords instead of relying on a printed index.
Bleller, Richard J. (1999). Reference guide to mystery and detective fiction. 391 pages.


Log into any of these databases by clicking on the link. If you are away from campus, please read the instructions on remote access, located here.
Biography Resource Center A database of complete biographies on notable people around the world.
Contemporary Literary Criticism A database offering full-text articles on literature.
Gale Student Edition Full-text articles and other multimedia geared toward high school students. Go here before Google! Search for subject "American and Literature" to find full-text articles; multimedia, newspapers, and other popular resources. Author searches and subject area searches are also possible. Play with different combination of search terms; for questions, consult the BCDS library for searching help.
Readers Guide Full Text Select Good source of articles and criticisms. Check box for Readers Guide Full Text select. Basic or advanced search: "American and Literature".

Internet sites

Classic Crime Fiction A guide to the history of detective fiction, as well as a comprehensive lists of titles.
Detective Novels: An Overview A concise overview of the genre by a Case Western University professor.
The Film Noir Foundation A complete and updated guide to the genre.
Film Noir Studies Essays, timelines, images, and glossary of terms.
The Noir Zone A comprehensive webpage detailing more than 1,000 film noir titles.

BPL: electronic resources

JSTOR: More than 600 core scholarly journals focusing on literature and the humanities. Collection spans the last 150 years but does not includes most current 3 to 5 years.
Literary Resource Center: Full-text database that combines more than 1,000 books, major literary encyclopedias, and reference works from antiquity to the present. It also houses more than 100 literary journals and unique sources not available elsewhere.
Student Resource Center: Designed for grades 6-12, this database offers easy keyword searching across journals, images, books, and reference materials.

Updated 10-09.